Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Persecution, Anyone?

Have you ever been persecuted for something you stood for?  I mean really persecuted, not just teased or laughed at – beat up, put in jail, threatened with death?

I’d have to say no.  I don’t believe I’ve ever even lost a job because of the Sabbath.  I’d ask if it was going to be a problem, and if the boss wouldn’t compromise, I just didn’t take the job.

In high school I used to take some heat from my band director and fellow band members because I didn’t march in the Friday night football games.  They always wanted to know why I couldn’t just get a note from my pastor telling me it was okay to march.  I’m not sure how that would have worked, really.  Who would I give the note to?  God?

“Please excuse Lillianne for breaking the Sabbath when she marches at half-time at the football game.  She’s still a good person.”

The thing that made that situation a tiny bit tougher to deal with was that my brother DID march in those games…so people did have a hard time understanding why he could and I couldn’t.  They didn’t realize it wasn’t an issue of could or couldn’t; it was an issue of would or wouldn’t.  And my brother and I both made our own choices.  And I wasn’t kicked out of the band or beat up because I wouldn’t march on Sabbath.  I have to say, though, in my whole life that is the biggest conflict I’ve ever experienced. 

That’s why I can admit, that when I think about persecution, I really can’t even imagine it, much less the concept of martyrdom.  Those are things that are completely foreign to me.  But, it isn’t to everyone, and it won’t always be to me.  2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

Hang onto your seats!  That says ALL that follow Jesus SHALL be persecuted.  So, where does that leave you and me?  Have you ever seriously thought about what might be involved in standing up for what you believe in?  I don’t believe I have thought enough about it.

When I was in college at Keene, there was a boy there – I don’t even remember his name – who was probably the most intensely spiritual person I have ever met.  He thought a lot about “the time of trouble” and what that would mean to him personally.  What hardships he would have to experience.  And he wasn’t afraid; he spent every day getting ready for that time.

I have to say that the majority of us were not as spiritually minded as he was and we were kind of embarrassed by his intensity.  We weren’t particularly kind to him.  In retrospect, I wish I had gotten to know him.  He had the most recognizable “amen” on campus.  I’d be in assembly or church or prayer meeting, whatever, and from somewhere in the crowd I would hear his unmistakable “a-MON!”  And my friends and I would nudge each other and smile.  We were persecuting him, but the joke was on us.  He was always focused on Jesus…and we weren’t.  Who was the winner there?  Exactly.

When many of us think about persecuting we think of the early Christians being fed to the lions and then we jump to the time before Jesus comes, that thing we call, “the time of trouble”.  We don’t really think of persecution going on right now – it’s in the past and it’s in the future, but it doesn’t really have much to do with us, right now, right?
That’s not true.  A man named Thomas Hall states in an article that “More Christians died for their faith in the twentieth century than at any other time in history, says Christian Solidarity International. Global reports indicate that over 150,000 Christians were martyred last year,…”

Excuse me?  150,000 martyred Christians?  How can this be?  Why isn’t this on every news program all the time?  Where are these people?  Here are just a few of today’s headlines from a website called, oddly enough, The Persecution Times: 

•          Violence Against Christians on the Increase in Turkey
•          Breaking News: Pastors beaten up in Devgoan, Maharashtra
•          Christian Attorney’s Arrested and Tortured
•          Church Meeting Disrupted by Hindu Radicals
•          New Cartoon Riots Kill Christians in Nigeria
•          Pastors beaten and arrested on charges of conversion
•          Church Ransacked and Desecrated in Karnataka state in India
•          Nine Christians killed following accusations of blasphemy in Nigeria

Now, maybe it’s just me, but did you know this much persecution was taking place?  Do you have as much trouble as I do imagining myself in these types of situations?
“To human wisdom, all this now seems impossible; but as the restraining Spirit of God shall be withdrawn from men, and they shall be under the control of Satan, . . . “ E.G. White, The Faith I Live By, page 330.
As we go through our every day lives, here in the United States, being imprisoned, harassed, beaten or even killed because we say were Christians seems totally impossible, doesn’t it?  But I’m worried that that is going to be a big part of our problem when we are challenged.  We have become so comfortable being quietly Christian that being openly Christian will be too hard for us.

Think about it.  How often do we just keep quiet when the subject of what church we belong to comes up?  Or when someone asks where we stand on a particular Christian topic?  Have we learned the lesson of compromise so well that we don’t know how to stand firm anymore?
“In the absence of the persecution there have drifted into our ranks men who appear sound and their Christianity unquestionable, but who, if persecution should arise, would go out from us”.--Ev 360 (1890).
Will we be among those who will “go out” when persecution begins?  I have to say that four years of explaining every single week during football season why I was not going to be marching in the half-time show led me to a rock solid understanding of why I keep the Sabbath.  But, nobody was slapping me or carrying me off to jail because of it.  Mostly folks just shrugged and said something along the lines of, “Bummer, see ya Monday.”  Not exactly painful on any level.

So, where does that leave me?  Am I willing to stand for Jesus even if it means that I will die?  Or will I compromise and walk away.  Am I more afraid of pain and death than I am of losing forever with Jesus?  If you’re like me, all this talk of persecution is really frightening, but read what Paul wrote in Romans 8:15-39.  It gives me a lot of hope for what is on the horizon.
“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.  Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Bible tells us that the time is coming when it will be a crime to believe the way we do.  When we have to make the choice to follow man and live, or follow Jesus and die, what will you and I decide?  Maybe we need to start making those decisions today.

No comments:

Post a Comment